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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Main types of provision


8.Adult education and training

8.4Main types of provision

Last update: 27 November 2023

Provision to raise achievement in basic skills

General upper secondary schools for adult students

The term “general upper secondary school for adult students” refers to institutions providing basic and general upper secondary education for adults. Upper secondary schools for adults (adult high school), (Finnish: aikuislukio, Swedish: vuxengymnasium) are either separate institutions or adult education units operating linked to institutions providing education for young people. They also offer the opportunity to complete the matriculation examination and individual subject syllabi. In addition, it is possible to improve the grades of subjects completed earlier. Adult high school is intended for students over 18 years old. There are upper secondary schools for adults in approximately 40 municipalities. Where required, individual upper secondary schools for adults may also specialise in specific courses or in the instruction of specific adult target groups. General upper secondary schools for adults also provide other educational services for a fee.

Basic education and general upper secondary education for adults are also organised by some folk high schools, (Finnish: kansanopisto, Swedish: folkhögskola). Summer universities (Finnish: kesäyliopisto, Swedish: sommaruniversitet), specific "summer upper secondary schools" and some other educational institutions may also organise teaching of the basic and general upper secondary education syllabi. However, the possible accreditation of the courses they provide is decided by the education provider concerned.

Competence-based vocational qualifications

Even the competence-based vocational qualifications comprise only vocational units, it is possible to include common units into the student´s personal competence development plan in order to improve the reading literacy and numeracy skills.

Liberal adult education institutions offer literacy and language training for immigrants

A new flexible training model is launched for immigrants as of 2018. Adult education centres, folk high schools, learning centres and summer universities provide the training. The new training model builds on literacy training and language studies in Finnish or Swedish. These studies can then be combined with other, more practice-oriented studies. The training is free of charge for the individuals when it is included in their integration plans. Other immigrants can get study vouchers to help them join the training.

The new training model gives different kinds of liberal adult educational institutions a stronger role in the integration of immigrants. The new training meets the needs of those who are currently attending literacy training. It also reaches out to immigrants who currently are excluded from training.

The action is part of the reform of literacy training for immigrants. The Ministry of Education and Culture  takes up the responsibility for literacy training for immigrants as of 2018. The Government’s goal is to accelerate immigrants’ transition to training and working life.

Provision to achieve a recognised qualification during adulthood certification

Competence-based vocational qualifications

The competence-based vocational qualification system provides adults with a flexible way of demonstrating, renewing and maintaining their vocational skills, or of qualifying for a new profession when their work tasks change. It is a specific benefit of this system that it enables national and qualitative recognition of an individual’s vocational competencies, regardless of whether they were acquired through work experience, studies or other activities. The competence-based vocational qualification system recognises competencies acquired in a variety of ways.

Three types of competence-based vocational qualifications

Vocational qualifications (initial vocational qualifications), further vocational qualifications and specialist vocational qualifications. All qualifications are composed of units of learning outcomes. Vocational qualifications consist of vocational units and common units. Further and specialist qualifications comprise only vocational units and the necessity for common units is assessed when preparing the personal competence development plan. 

Vocational qualifications are independent of the way the vocational skills have been acquired. If the individual’s competences meet the national qualification requirements, they can be acquired in different learning environments and ways, at different times. Students demonstrate their skills in competence demonstrations at practical work. 

Initial VET (vocational upper secondary) provides learners with the vocational skills they need for entry level jobs. It also supports learners’ growth into good and balanced individuals and members of society and provides them with the knowledge and skills needed in further studies and in the development of their personalities. A holder of a vocational upper secondary qualification has broad basic vocational skills for working in different tasks in the field as well as more specialised competence and the vocational skills required in work life in at least one section of the field. 

A holder of a further vocational qualification has vocational skills that meet the needs of the labour market and that are more advanced or more specialised than in initial VET. A holder of a specialist vocational qualification has vocational skills that meet the needs of the labour market and that are highly advanced or multidisciplinary.  

Personal competence development plan for each student

A personal competence development plan is drawn up for each student. The plan is drawn up by a teacher or a guidance counsellor together with the student and, when applicable, representative of working life. The plan charts and recognises the skills previously acquired by the student and outlines what kind of competences the student needs and how they will be acquired in different learning environments. Students may have obtained relevant skills from working life, another school, international study, work placement periods, family and leisure activities or through the media. Previous learning is recognised and only the missing skills are acquired. The plan also includes information on the necessary supportive measures. The support received by a student may involve special teaching and studying arrangements due to learning difficulties, injury or illness, or studies that support study abilities. 

Prospective students can apply to VET whenever suitable and start their studies flexibly throughout the year. 

Each qualification has a number of competence points (ECVET equivalent; 60 competence points corresponds one year study). The scope of vocational qualifications is 180 competence points, further vocational qualifications 120, 150 or 180 and specialist vocational qualifications 160, 180 or 210 competence points. The Ministry of Education and Culture decides on the qualification structure and on the scope of qualifications.

Working life committees supervise the quality of qualifications

Working life committees are responsible for supervising qualifications. Their aim is to ensure the quality and working life orientation of VET.  They are statutory bodies of elected officials, appointed by the Finnish National Agency for Education to manage a public duty. Working life committee members handle this task temporarily in three years periods, in addition to their regular duties. A maximum of nine members may be appointed to each working life committee, who must represent employers, employees, teachers and, if self-employment is common within the sector in question, independent self-employed professionals. There are 39 working life committees. Each working life committee is responsible for either one or more competence-based qualifications. The committees participate in developing the qualification structure and in designing qualification requirements. They also participate in quality assurance of skills demonstrations and assessment through national feedback, follow-up and evaluation data, and may also visit the skills demonstrations events, when necessary. Finally, they handle the requests related to the rectification of assessment. 

Provision targeting the transition to the labour market

Vocational labour market training

The goal of vocational labour market training often is to complete a vocational qualification, a further or a specialist vocational qualification, or a vocational qualification module. In addition, further or continuing education is also organised in many sectors. Free vocational labour market training is provided at vocational education institutions, higher education institutions and private educational institutions.

The ministry of education and culture is responsible for the implementation, quality and funding of the labour market training leading to qualification. Student selection to labour market training is the responsibility of public employment and business services (TE Services).

Who is vocational labour market training for?

Vocational labour market training is primarily intended for adults who are unemployed or at risk of losing their jobs and who have completed their compulsory education.

Vocational labour market training may be used to support a student who has dropped out in completing a higher education qualification. In that case, the student must be able to prove that he or she dropped out more than a year ago. Full-time studies must be completed in 12–24 months. The time depends on the qualification to be completed and on whether the educational institution is a university of applied sciences or a university.

Entrepreneurial career coaching and entrepreneur training are provided for those who are thinking about starting, or planning to start, their own business. Starting a business can be flexibly combined with entrepreneur training.

TE Offices often plan and provide vocational education and training in partnership with employers (joint purchase education and training). Those planning to start a business, or an entrepreneur with his or her employees and hired employees working in the company may take part in the training.

Provision of liberal (popular) adult education

The purpose of liberal adult education is, based on the principle of lifelong learning, to support the all-round development of individuals’ personalities and the ability of individuals to function in communities, as well as to promote the realisation of democracy, equality, and pluralism in Finnish society.

Liberal adult education is mainly meant for the adult population. People of all ages and social backgrounds come to study at the institutions. The majority of students at summer universities and adult education centres are women for whom personal development is an important part of life. Institutions also offer courses for children and young people.

Liberal adult education institutions are also important providers of education for adult immigrants. According to a 2015 survey, 80% of the institutions had immigrant students. Liberal adult education institutions provide integration education for immigrants. Adults from immigrant backgrounds also take courses that are open for everyone alongside members of the native population.

Liberal adult education institutions also offer training for young immigrants. Immigrants under 25 years of age and immigrants aged between 16 and 17 who have arrived without a guardian are special groups.

Folk high schools

Folk high schools organize general education programmes (e.g. in arts, languages, education or theology) at 80 campuses. Studies are full-time and last for a whole academic year. During the year, students can revise school subjects, study special fields and try out new ways of learning.

Many students attend folk high schools to prepare for higher education and to take open university courses that may be useful for university studies later on.

Folk high schools provide vocational training and basic education courses alongside liberal adult education courses. They also provide courses complementing basic education (“Year Ten”) that aim to improve grades from comprehensive school.

Folk high schools are boarding schools. Living in student residences and studying in small groups give studies a sense of community. At folk high schools, students can improve themselves and their workplace skills, grow independent and make friends. A folk high school may also be a suitable place for people who want to complete basic education or are planning to go on to higher education, and for those on sabbatical leave.

Folk high schools can be divided into four groups according to their background organisations: non-political (Grundtvigian), Christian, civil society based and folk high schools with special education.

Adult education centres

Adult education centres are the biggest adult education institution by the number of students in Finland. Teaching is offered in all municipalities, and one of the main principles of operation is to bring education close to the people. Activities usually take place in locations owned by the municipality – for example, at schools and leisure centres.

The courses offered usually include courses on arts, crafts, music, language and literature, home economics, sports, ICT, and social studies. Courses are offered for all age groups.

In addition to liberal adult education, adult education centres offer open university studies and tailored courses for clients such as municipalities and companies.

Study centres

Study centres are third-sector (voluntary) institutions that are run by non-governmental organisations, political parties and trade unions.

The activities are mostly meant for volunteers and active participants in the organisations. The training takes place in the form of courses, lectures, seminars and study clubs, which facilitate peer learning. Teaching mainly takes place in the evenings or during weekends, often at facilities owned by the organisation.

Study centres offer a wide range of education opportunities that support democracy and active citizenship and help participants play a full and active part in society, particularly at grassroots level.

Training is organised flexibly in different parts of the country, depending on where the students are. An increasing amount of learning takes place online. This helps education providers respond to the education needs that arise in less time.

Summer universities

Summer universities are regional institutions that mainly operate in cities. They have 31 permanent offices, and education is organized in 110 localities. Their activities mainly consist of offering open university courses and responding to the regional education and skills development needs. Summer university courses provide opportunities for both personal and professional development.

The region’s highly educated population is an important target group. Nevertheless, the courses are open for all, regardless of age and educational background. Teaching takes place year-round in the form of courses, and is short-term.

Summer universities are in close cooperation with institutions of higher education as well as other kinds of institutions. They offer many multidisciplinary programmes in, for example, culture, arts, Finnish language and culture, European studies, education, environmental research, health sciences, and social sciences.

In addition to that, summer universities also offer continuing education courses, public lectures, regional seminars, and culture events, as well as university education for senior citizens (University of the Third Age).

Sports institutes

Sports institutes provide education that improves the sports participation, well-being, and health of the whole population. Some of the sports institutes are state-level institutions, and others are regional.

Most of the liberal adult education courses are 3–5 day exercise courses, sports camps for children and young people, or courses for families.

The institutes also offer semester-long basic courses in physical education that aim to strengthen participants’ sports and instruction skills, encourage an active lifestyle, and prepare participants for further studies in sports.

In addition, sports institutions also provide training to sports clubs and associations, coaching activities, basic and further vocational training and courses for companies.

Other types of publicly subsidised provision for adult learners

All main types of publicly subsidiced provisions for adult learners have been described above.